I have a bit of confusion regarding "sb/sth. has/have been adjective./noun". For example, "I have been ill." "This festival has been great." "He has been a smart person." I am wondering about the time frame of them; I am not sure whether they mean "I have been ill in the past and I am still ill now"/"This festival is great from the past to the present"/"He was a smart person and still is", or "I was ill in the past but I have recovered now"/"This festival was great but now it's over or no longer great"/"He was smart but now is not".

I have consulted Google but there are many versions of explanations and I am a bit lost.

  • The meaning of the present perfect is 'underspecified' and interpreted by context. You may find What is the perfect, and how should I use it? useful, especially §3.2 Pragmatic meaning. Oct 22, 2019 at 18:06
  • @StoneyB I have read this page but it doesn't contain information about when the verb is a stative verb like "be"
    – user103302
    Oct 22, 2019 at 18:10
  • To further clarify, I know about the construction "have been + noun + for/since". But in London I have heard people using this construction without any time clauses at all. That's why I am wondering.
    – user103302
    Oct 22, 2019 at 18:24
  • A PrPf may be continuative, resultative, or experiential, but you cannot know which any particular instance is without access to the larger discourse in which it occurs. The aspect of the main verb supplies some context, but it is not determinative. All perfects are 'stative by construction'. Oct 22, 2019 at 22:48
  • What do you mean by "stative by construction"? But certainly when the verb is stative the usage is a bit different right? Because I read that stative verbs don't take progressive forms when expressing the stative meaning, even when the state is temporary.
    – user103302
    Oct 23, 2019 at 13:47

1 Answer 1


I have been ill

This sentence means that he was ill some time ago and is ill now and may not be well for some time in the future too.

He has been a smart person.

He has been a smart person since I knew him.He will continue to be so.

He has been a great inspiration for me

His effect was on me in the past and in the present and may be in the future too.

But the meaning of each sentence depends on the context.The context is more important.

  • I see. So this would normally means that the thing being talked about happened in the past and continues to the present. "I have been ill" means I entered the state of being ill in the past and am still waiting for recovery.
    – user103302
    Oct 22, 2019 at 18:51
  • Yes. you are.I have recovered.That is different Oct 22, 2019 at 18:52
  • 1
    I have been ill leaves open the question of whether the person concerned is still ill, is recovering or has recovered. It is not specific. As StoneyB notes, the meaning depends on the context. Oct 22, 2019 at 22:19
  • And "He has been a smart person, but not since his stroke" and "He has been a great inspiration, and may be so again after he serves his sentence". Oct 22, 2019 at 22:54
  • 1
    @StoneyB Just wondering, if the action had stopped when he had a stroke, shouldn't the sentence be like "He had been..."?
    – user103302
    Oct 23, 2019 at 13:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .